The Mana series has seen a boon as of late with a number of titles either being remade or remastered for various platforms through various means. There’s even a new console game in development, which was announced during anniversary celebrations last year. Square Enix seems keen on continuing the series with further developments to come, the first of which has culminated in the upcoming mobile action RPG Echoes of Mana – a smartphone game that promises to be a love letter to the series for both existing fans and newcomers alike.
We had a go with the pre-release version of the game ahead of the game’s pre-registration announcement.
Echoes of Mana starts you off innocently enough. You’ll select between a male or female player character that will serve as your avatar, give them a name and into the tutorial you’ll go. It’s a short trip through some of the game’s basic mechanics – the likes of which encompass traditional RPG setups. Attack by selecting the appropriate action tapped on the screen including basic attacks and special abilities triggered after building enough Magic Gauge to do so. You can move your character along the screen in a side-scrolling fashion by swiping left or right – it’s all very simple, which works out well for a bite-sized pick up and play experience. Despite typical genre setups, it doesn’t feel quite daunting and you’re put into the main game soon enough.
The game opens up with a series of chapters where you can experience the story. Your character is the chosen one who must search for the Mana Sword, restore the world and all that good stuff. Easy enough, right? If you had any doubt, the game puts you with your own party of characters. Two join you out the gate – Honeycomb and Duffle – and participate in battle controlled one at a time. Additional characters can be had through Echoes of Mana’s gashapon system. You’ll get a freebie and some currency to roll for more units, enough so you can get on with a full party following the tutorial section. The main draw is the wealth of classic Mana series characters you can pull with you on your journey along with some original characters.
There’s also the ability to add friends and play the game in a co-op style – though we didn’t get to test out this part of the game during the preview period. The co-op option can be accessed from the home menu screen along with your friend’s list and other hub items.
Echoes of Mana features a 2D action setup filled with vibrant character art and backgrounds. An animated opening sequence strengthens the voiced (in Japanese) presentation for a polished feel that doesn’t feel cheap or thoughtless. The development team seems to have put a lot of effort into the game’s look and feel and it shines through in every facet. It’s impressive because it shows just how clean a mobile RPG offering can be – even running on a several years old Xperia 5.
Of course, Echoes of Mana is a free to play title and you do have the opportunity to simply play the game, wrack up currency and go about your business. There’s plenty of ways to do so from playing the story chapters and daily login bonuses and what have you. If you’d like to progress faster and gather units you can always use the in-app purchase system.
So who is this game for? Well, first and foremost, if you’re into the Mana series you might take a look if only because the game seems tailor-made to longtime fans. Echoes of Mana has the capacity to appeal to newcomers because of how accessible it is. The battle system is easy to grasp and the game doesn’t waste time before it lets you explore the story. The art and character designs are eye-catching and the inclusion of voice acting makes the game feel like more than something just shoved out the door and checked off a list. It’s worth a look based on those merits alone – certainly, it’s one of Square Enix’s more interesting mobile outings to date and a welcome addition to the ever-growing Mana series.